For Immediate Release
September 23, 2016
CITY FILES CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST BUILDING OWNER WHO HAD FATAL FAÇADE COLLAPSE
New York, NY
– Today, Department of Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler announced that the owner and managing partnership company of 305 West End Avenue in Manhattan, where a child was fatally struck by a piece of falling façade in May 2015, were charged with violations of the Administrative Code in Manhattan Criminal Court on September 20, 2016. The Criminal Court Informations charge Esplanade Venture Partnership and Alexander Scharf, its managing agent and principal majority shareholder, with violating provisions of the New York City Administrative Code that require all parts of a building, including the exterior walls and appurtenances, to be maintained in a safe condition. It is alleged that even though the defendants had been notified of deteriorating façade conditions that posed a danger to the public, they failed to make necessary repairs in subsequent years. The charges carry a maximum penalty of $25,000 or up to a year in jail, or both.
“When you own a building, you have a responsibility to maintain it – you don’t just get to cash the rent checks and call it a day,” said Buildings Commissioner Chandler. “I hope these criminal charges will send a message that building owners can’t turn a blind eye to maintenance. They have a legal responsibility to their tenants, and to the public, to keep their properties safe.”
Since Local Law 11 was enacted in 1980, New York City has required owners of buildings greater than 6 stories to retain a qualified licensed professional to examine façades and exterior walls and report the conditions they find to DOB. Despite a recommendation following to immediately repair cracks in the exterior walls, appropriate action wasn’t taken. The ownership made minor repairs but continued to allow the façade to deteriorate.
Following the façade failure, working with DOI, DOB implemented changes to its own procedures to increase façade enforcement. Among other changes, DOB:
- Established a new system to track all Local Law 11 inspection reports;
- Required that any building that fails to timely file an inspection report will have 180 days to submit the report -- if the landlord fails to do so, the City will conduct an inspection and, if needed, place safety sheds at the location at the landlord’s expense; and
- Mandated that any building that files a report indicating there are dangerous conditions will be given 180 days to correct these conditions. Again, if the landlord fails to do so, the City will conduct an inspection and, if needed, place safety sheds at the location at the landlord’s expense.
 The charges contained in the Information are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. All factual recitations regarding the allegations and charges against defendants are derived from documents filed in court.